US food airlift for Somalia gets under way

BELETUEN - Somalis rushed to unload sacks of food from US military transport planes yesterday as an airlift to the world's neediest people got under way. Four food-laden Hercules planes, marked with Red Cross insignia, landed in half-hour intervals on the gravel airstrip in this desert town 250 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu, to feed 300,000 famished refugees.

The flights, originating 670 miles away in neighbouring Kenya, were the first for the multi-million-dollar United States relief effort to aid Somalia, most of whose 2 million people face starvation.

Meanwhile, two United Nations military observers were shot and wounded in the capital, Mogadishu, yesterday by Somali gunmen who opened fire on their vehicle when they ignored orders to halt, the UN said.

Witnesses in Mogadishu said several jeeps converged on the four-wheel-drive car in the southern sector of the divided city and opened fire, shooting an Egyptian major in the back at close range and injuring a Czech observer in the head. Doctors said three Somali guards were killed.

In Beletuen, dozens of Somali volunteers ran up to the planes to unload the 50kg (100lb) food bags donated by Canada and the European Community and put them on a lorry for Red Cross kitchens in the area.

'God bless the Red Cross for our survival. This is a blessed operation,' said Mohamed Noor Ahmed, a local chief in the strife- torn country, at a kitchen guarded by rifle-wielding young men in head scarves. He said the kitchen served two cooked meals a day to about 2,000 refugees. 'Thirty die of hunger, disease and malnutrition every day. So help from the Red Cross is a drop in the Ocean,' he added.

Under an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has spent nearly half its world budget on the Somali crisis, the US aircraft were marked with the ICRC insignia to deter gunmen from looting their cargo.

Somalia, one of the poorest nations in the world, descended into anarchy last year when rival clans began a scramble for power after overthrowing the president, Mohamed Siad Barre. Previous efforts to bring aid to the country have been thwarted by looting by armed gunmen.

Marine Brigadier-General Frank Libutti, commander of the US 'Operation Provide Relief', called the first day's flights a success. 'So far, so good,' he declared. For the past week US planes have been ferrying food to desert airstrips in northern Kenya, which is host to about half a million Somali refugees and 700,000 victims of the Kenyan drought. Daily food deliveries are planned.

US officials said Beletuen was chosen because security was better than some other centres and because the town was in desperate need of food, with an estimated 70 per cent of people malnourished.

Letters, page 15

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments